Sunday, January 8, 2017

ARC Review: Off Base (Out of Uniform, #1) by Annabeth Albert

After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike's flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike's arrival would spark from Zack's teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can't refuse.

Pike Reynolds knows there won't be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He's an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he's had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can't risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.

Living with Pike crumbles Zack's restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn't know how to be the man Pike deserves.

Jewel's rating:

"A virgin SEAL --" […] "I'm just saying, you must be rarer than a fucking unicorn."

I do love me some military themed M/M romances. Eat 'em up, yum! Off Base, book 1 of Annabeth Albert's Out of Uniform series delivered in the best of ways.

One of the MC's, Zack, was briefly introduced in book 3 of this author's #gaymers series, Connection Error, though I don't think you need to read that series to enjoy this one. Ryan and Josiah, who were the MC's for Connection Error do show up a few times in Off Base, though, and I was happy to visit with them a bit.

Zack Nelson is a newly minted Navy SEAL. He seems like a confident Alpha male, over achiever type of guy, until you get to know him, and then you see his vulnerabilities. He excels at navigation and surveillance and he made it through SEAL training, so he's got my respect. He doesn't give up, ever. Zack has something to prove, though. To his parents, his bully of a brother and mostly, himself.

His parents are extremely conservative and religious and they warned him about that "west coast lifestyle", ie liberal, and that he needed to find a church like at home and stay away from the gays. And they really are that bad. His older brother is a fuck-up whom the parents still bail out of jail every time he gets arrested and every time his brother gets into trouble, Zack feels even more pressure to be what his parents consider to be "perfect". The problem? Zack is gay. But the poor boy is so conflicted by it, he does his best to just wish it away. And to make things even worse, one of his SEAL teammates noticed Zack looking a little too long at another guy, once, and like the bully he is, decided that making Zack's life hell was a fine way to pass the time, and assert his manliness.

Through his best friend, Ryan, Zack meets Pike Reynolds, who is the best friend of Ryan's boyfriend, Josiah. Pike is flirty with everyone, including Zack and it makes Zack so uncomfortable. Pike, though, is pretty perceptive and notices that Zack looks a little too long (and longingly) at gay couples to be a straight guy - no matter how much Zack insists he is straight. Pike has a thing for military guys, and though he has a personal rule to not go after straight guys, because that can only spell trouble. But when Pike finds a job teaching in San Diego and needs a place to live, Zack comes to mind and to the rescue.

I enjoyed Off Base, and thought it was a pretty good start to this new series. Zack and Pike become friends before they become lovers, and even though Zack was nowhere near ready to come out, at first, Pike showed a whole lot of patience and compassion. Zack had a lot to work out and had to find his way through the fear - the fear of losing his family, the fear that his teammates wouldn't have his six, the fear of disappointing everyone - especially, himself. Pike isn't without baggage, either, but his is a bit less severe. But it takes an event that leaves Zack uncertain if he could keep Pike, without coming out to show him that he has friends that care for him and will not only have his back, but will also show others that bullying can't and won't be tolerated, and that gives Zack the courage to take the chance at happiness.



ARC of Off Base was generously provided, by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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